WALLINGFORD — Children at the Ulbrich Boys and Girls Club can soon have access to expanded cooking classes and more space for craft activities thanks to the renovation of the clubhouse’s kitchen.
A grand opening is scheduled for Sept. 30 at 9:30 a.m. to show off the extent of the work, which transformed the kitchen with new tiles and countertops, plenty of additional cabinet space, fresh paint and new appliances. The upgraded flooring also extends throughout the game room, office and the computer lab.
“It looks like a whole new club,” said Resource Development and Marketing Officer Don Crouch. “ … it definitely brightened up the space and gave it a much needed facelift, considering a lot of it is piecemealed together over the years since 1995.”
The kitchen has already seen some use through the club’s summer camp, but once the coronavirus restrictions on capacity are lifted, the club aims to begin partnering with restaurants to run cooking and nutrition activities in the kitchen. Before the renovation, the small space and paltry storage limited the kinds of programs that could be held there to more simple cooking and crafts.
“Hopefully we'll be able to bring in some of our other restaurant partners that help out and expand on our culinary side of things,” Crouch said.
Past Board of Directors Chairperson Tammy Ulbrich said she made it her mission to see the project out before her term ended in June, since it had been a project that had been discussed by the club’s leadership for as long as four years.
She said the kitchen sees a lot of use for a variety of activities, however, the most important she sees is teaching children how to cook healthy food for themselves. Not only does she hope doing so will allow them to turn away from grabbing junk food when there isn’t a meal available for them, but that by being able to prepare their own meals children will become more independent and prepared for adulthood.
“For me it was trying to find out ways that children can be a little bit more self-sufficient and still make healthy choices,” she said.
Since they only have a short period of time between their program seasons, she said it was a risk to take the kitchen offline as the beginning of summer camp approached. They were helped by the coronavirus shutdown, which cut their afterschool season short and gave them the time to bring contractors in without disturbing children.
Ulbrich said the project was only possible through the support of local businesses and nonprofits which donated financially as well as by providing materials and contractors for the effort.
The Rotary Club of Wallingford and the Wadsworth Family Foundation both provided grants, while South Broad Paint & Home Center and Tile America both donated materials and labor. Art’s TV and Appliance in North Haven also donated a dishwasher and garbage disposal, a family donated a lightly used refrigerator and a parent volunteered to do some of the painting.
“It’s just amazing what people will do … it makes your heart feel good that there’s so much goodness in the world,” she said.
Crouch said the project would have cost around $45,000 to $50,000, however the in-kind donations of materials and labor brought the cost down to around $23,000, which was covered with grants and donations, including a contribution from Tammy Ulbrich.
James Carlozzi, owner of South Broad Paint & Home Center, said he was happy to be a part of the project. His business donated the supplies and labor to replace the cabinets and countertops and upgrade the plumbing and electric.
“They contribute to the community. My partner and I, we want to do our part too,” Carlozzi said. “They do such great things in the area, we wanted to help out in any way we could.”